Foie Gras in Old Bridge!?! New "JUST Restaurant" opens on Route 9
This is a new restaurant that opened in Old Bridge on Route 9 South ; and since my wife and I got lazy on our way to the city and didn't feel like continuing our trek up the Turnpike, we stumbled on this find, which is tucked off Route 9 behind a gas station next to what appeared to be an Asian marketplace
Though mostly invisible to passing traffic on Route 9, once we entered, the modern decor more than compensated for the lackluster location. We were brought the wine list but a pleasant, competent, but obviously nervous staff. While it is not a huge list by any stretch of the imagination, it had some well priced, well chosen options to enjoy. We initially selected a Crozes-Hermitage but as it was not available (distributor had brought a white Crozes-Hermitage and not the red we had selected), we kept with our Rhone Ranger mentality and selected a Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
We were told the chef whose name escapes me, has a long career in restaurants, traning under Wolfgang Puck and a few others, and having opened restaurants in the Boston area.
Bread was brought and was a promising start. Warm Naan Bread that was truly addictive - only issue was that the herb butter presented was served right out of the fridge and too hard.
Amuse Bouche was an Oyster Shooter with Asian Flavors - which provided a briny and flavorful beginning to the meal. This was quite tasty and set the stage for the quality of cuisine to come
The appetizers had a few interesting choices (including Foie Gras sliders that sounded similar to what L'Ateiier de Robuchon serves) but we settled on the Seared Foie Gras with Apple Tartin and Riesling Gelee, the Steak Tartare, and the Duck Risotto with Mango.
Surprised to see such sophisticated offerings behind a gas station, I thoroughly enjoyed the seared foie gras, which came presented on top of three small wrapped pastries (apple tartin) and the flavors all worked together while not overpowering each other. The gelee prep was not the best I've seen but the overall dish was interesting and delicious, and an indication of successes to come. The ratio of pastry to foie gras showed a balance of flavors and techniques that to me, demonstrates a chef committed to thoughtful and flavor combinations
The beef tartare was tasty but nothing earth-shattering. The meat was of high quality but I had hoped for a better flavor overall and found myself overusing the mustard provided as an accompaniment. Maybe a little salt? A good, but not great , dish.
The duck risotto with mango was much better, cooked al dente, and full of herbs and gaminess, counteracted by the sweet and tart mango. My wife loved this and I shared her enthusiasm though kept to myself and finished my foie gras.
We then went to the entree side of the menu, and despite the urge to order the steak with bone marrow (at $45 we opted to be more conservative), we went for the "Quail with Hen of the Wood Mushrooms and Foie Gras" and the "Braised Veal Cheeks."
With plenty of entree options, the menu has something for everyone.
My veal cheeks were (almost too) tender, melting in my mouth and covered with a nice Cabernet based sauce (if I remember correctly???) All in all, a toast to the winter stews I love in the wintertime. It was paired with a polenta that served to mop up the remaining sauce. I would have loved the addition of some more root vegetables or something to that nature, but overall, it was good.
Unfortunately, my wife's quail was overcooked for my liking, and I could not find the foie gras advertised on the menu. In my opinion, the only unsuccessful dish of the night.
Before dessert, we were presented with chocolate truffles which were very tasty. We didn't go for a true dessert, but decided to try the Malted Milk Ball ice cream (which we were told comes from Ciao Bella) which brought the meal to a fitting close. Absolutely delicious!
All in all, this was only their second night in operation, and we were very impressed at the new addition to the Monmouth County food scene. It is easily the most ambitious restaurant on Route 9 from Howell to Sayreville, and has a talented chef and team that promises innovative and exciting cuisine. I'm looking forward to the restaurant as it evolves, and hope its location doesn't impede its success.
Is it possible this is the place that went in next to the international market behind Delta Gas? I always assumed it would be russian food but ...
Thanks for that info, wench31. I checked further on OpenTable. Their website is still under construction: http://www,justrestaurantnj.com.
I'm willing to give JUST a try since it's serving a style of cuisine we very much favor. Until now, restaurants offering it in our immediate area were non-existent. Of course, it remains to be seen if I will agree with gwh912's assessment regarding the quality of the food.
So with the inlaws about to leave for FL and last minute dinner reservations in need for something close and casual, we ended up deciding to explore more of the menu.
Just Sliders: filet of beef and foie gras on bun, with matchstick French fries- tasty - burger was Cooked to a perfect medium and juicy. Only issue for me was foie needed to be slightly bigger to be more prominent flavor (unlike the version at L'Atelier) . This dish screams fun bistro food to me though. I prefer the other foie prep more though it is a good burger nonetheless
Amuse Bouche - scallops with some accompaniments - quite good as was the bread
Caesar Salad- cutesy presentation but pretty standard salad with really nice brioche croutons
Wagyu Beef with Bone Marrow Bone- beef was flavorful and tasty , cooked to requested medium rare. The presentation isn't really "fine dining" but again more bistro style with a wad of matchstick fries on side. Liked the addition of using the small spoon provided to enjoy none narrow
Chilean Sea Bass with agave glaze- this was DELICIOUS and beautifully cooked and seasoned- and I never order fish. Flavors interesting and the simple prep was fantastic. Definitely a dish to order
Lobster Duet: whole lobster (out of shell) and open face lobster ravioli: not our favorite. Ravioli was ok , nothing special but did not enjoy whole lobster. Like the quail, the only unsuccessful dish of night
We opted to go for desserts this time and both were delicious . Just Chocolate was a nice chocolate cake with frozen chocolate mousse ice cream and a shot of steaming hot chocolate. Tasty and nice contrast of textures and temperatures
Cranberry - apple "strudel" - I don't remember the specifics but this was quite good. Father in law raved about it
Overall, everyone enjoyed their meal despite the isolated lobster issue. I would avoid the lobster and quail on the menu but everything else we have tried was tasty and in some cases absolutely delicious. I really hope the restaurant succeeds as everyone is so nice and you can tell the passion from the cooks to the host to who appears to be owner
Keep in mind, they are not Nicholas nor do they appear to be trying to be. They strike a nice balance between a nice dinner out while still remaining casual in dress and even bistro like in some of their presentations, while more fancy in others. With promises for a changing menu, and already seeing different amuses, I believe as they refine the menu further and make a few adjustments, only good things are to come. I would strongly recommend trying for yourself. We are heavily rooting for this restaurants success and hope to include it with Peacock Inn, Elements, Nicholas, Cafe Matisse, drews bayshore bistro, lorenas, Pluckemin Inn and others in our NJ rotation